What Mutant Flies Can Teach Us About Autoimmune Disorders

Monday, September 20, 2021
New research suggests winged critters with a penchant for overripe fruit may hold a secret to understanding autoimmune disorders such as lupus.

From founding the field of genetics research to unraveling the mysteries of disease, tiny fruit flies have made a big impact on our understanding of human biology.

While it may not look it, the insects share 60% of their genes with humans. Fruit flies have therefore become an important model organism for studying gene function and interactions – helping scientists explore everything from aging to cancer.

According to a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, those tiny but mighty flies may also hold an important piece of the autoimmune disease puzzle.  

"We focused on a fly mutant that mounts an immune response against one of its own internal organs," said study co-author Todd Schlenke, an associate professor in the Department of Entomology in the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a member of the university's BIO5 Institute.

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Rosemary Brandt
Director, External Communications